Lil Red the Hen and Dilly Duck and Frilly Frog

Lil Red the Hen lives on Old MacDonald’s Farm.  She has become known as something of a celebrity for her weather predictions, so the senior editor of the Barnyard Digital Gazette has asked her to write a weekly column.  Nervously she presents her first essay to the junior editor, a Mr. Patrick DeRack.  The junior editor marks it up then gives it to the senior editor.  After a few minutes, the senior editor frowns and scolds, “Red’s no hick hack, Pat DeRack, leave the blog alone.”

Meanwhile, Lil Red’s friends, Dilly Duck and Frilly Frog go the electronics store.  They walk around looking at all kinds of communications devices from tablets to pagers.  Then they stop, confused.  A novice sales associate named Patricia Rack strolls over and says to Frilly Frog, “You want to be able to talk to Dilly, don’t you?”  Frilly nods. The sales associate has been trained to steer customers to the most expensive items so she leads them over to the tablets and starts extolling the advantages from word processing to instant access to email to live video conferences.  The associate’s manager, Billy Bear has been observing and walks over.  “She wants a quick quack, Patti Rack, give the frog a phone.”

Duke Unlocks Carrollians Ransomware and the Cheshire Cat is Gone

Lt. Duke LeJeune, a homicide detective, drummed his fingers impatiently on the desk.  He was staring at a digital image of a Cheshire cat sitting beside a digital golden key.  He and his colleague, Adele Palmer, a cybercrime specialist, were in the luxurious conference room of Gilgamesh Software, a global company whose applications were used by over a hundred big banks.  Duke and Adele were investigating a new type of ransomware, from a new anonymous group that called itself Friends of Lewis Carroll and referred to themselves as Carrollians.  The group had hacked into the Gilgamesh AI and other systems and had easily bypassed all the protections the IT team had put in place.  Now the system was frozen by the software program they had left behind.

Duke caught murderers so he had tried to beg off, but the Chief had insisted that completely locking down all the firm’s computers and holding encrypted files hostage was effectively a plot to murder the company.  Duke’s job was to try and find a way, if he could, to unfreeze the firm’s computer assets.

The Carrollians didn’t want money from Gilgamesh.  Instead, they intended to use the company’s apps to extract money from the company’s clients, which the CEO knew they could.  Like all software, Gilgamesh code had flaws.  But the Carrollians also had a peculiar sense of fair play.  They offered to free Gilgamesh from the digital shackles if its champion could solve three riddles.  The CEO, no prize in either the logic or the humor department, had immediately called the SFPD and the SFPD had immediately sent Duke and Adele.

To start the riddles, the user had  to press the letter Q, so Duke pressed Q.

The Carrollians’ ransomware program unlocked the monitor and the keyboard, then displayed the first riddle.  This riddle was easy because it was famous and from Alice in Wonderland.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” 

Adele, hailing from Virginia, whispered, “Because Poe wrote on them both.”

When Duke typed that response in, the Cheshire cat’s grin grew a little wider and the golden key became less lustrous.

The next riddle was, in Duke’s view, just goofy and made him wonder if they somehow knew that a policeman and not the CEO was answering the questions.

“There are two bodies on the floor surrounded by water and broken glass.  How did they die?”

Duke typed, “The fishbowl got knocked over. They’re gold fish.”

After a few seconds, the Cheshire cat’s grin grew even wider but showed some sharp teeth.

The third riddle was a digital image of the Queen of Hearts with a cartoon balloon over her head which said:

“If you tell a lie, we will steal all your software.  If you tell the truth we will erase all your files.”

The CEO put his head into his hands and groaned, “We’re done for.”

Duke thought for a moment and typed, “You will steal all the software.”

The Cheshire Cat disappeared and the display said, “You have done well, beamish boy. But beware the Bandersnatch.”  Then the head of IT came running in and said all systems had been released and the AI was behaving normally.

Duke looked at Adele.  “No luck Duke, we still don’t know how they came or went or if they’ve left a software bomb for another day.”



Percy’s Home Improvement?

Percy the Pig walks into a home improvement store.  A novice salesman named Pat DeWack approaches and Percy says he needs to repair his house and needs to buy supplies.   Then he pulls out a picture and explains that a grumpy neighbor, Mr. Wolf, huffed and puffed and did a lot of damage.  The salesman takes him over to the lumber section.  The salesman’s manager comes over to make sure that Percy gets the right advice.  He takes one look at the picture and says, “What a stick stack, Pat DeWack, give the hog some stone.”

A spaniel named Daniel trots into a store that sells electronic equipment.

A spaniel named Daniel trots into a store that sells electronic equipment.  He walks around and after a few minutes finds the quadcopter he wants to buy.  A sales rep comes over, introduces himself as Paddy, and carries the boxed unit to the sales desk to ring up the sale.  Daniel takes out his wallet and finds he’s $10.00 short.  He removes a small gold bone-shaped tag and lays it on the table, and looks up at Paddy with hopeful eyes.  Paddy says, “I’m not sure.  I have to ask my manager, Mrs. Slocum.  Then he calls over to a white-haired woman who is setting up a display of cell phones.  “Are you free, Mrs. Slocum?”  The woman looks up and says, “I’m free Mr. Whack.”  Mrs. Slocum walks over and Paddy explains the situation.  Mrs. Slocum picks up the tag, examines it and asks Daniel if the tag was made of gold.  Daniel nods.  Mrs. Slocum smiles with approval, then says “It’s a knick-knack, Paddy Whack, give the dog the drone.”

Got Milk?

(GOT MILK? © 2017 Alyce Rita Campbell All Rights Reserved;  GOT MILK?  is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual incidents or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

It was sunrise and Kat tried to ignore the harsh sounds that had awakened her.  The rooster that lived in the backyard of the house across the street was beginning its day.  Desperately, she yanked her pillow over her head but still she could hear the alarm clock of a bird.

Kat had more than once declared to Ms. Thorne, the owner of both house and rooster, that the rooster belonged on a farm and would have to go.  Each time, Ms. Thorne had thanked her for her visit but each time had said that the rooster was a family pet and was staying.  Kat thought that the very idea of a rooster as a pet was absurd.  After their last unsatisfactory encounter, Kat had called Animal Control to see which ordinances were being violated and had been extremely irked to learn that the rooster was legal.

Kat sat up and tossed the pillow aside.  Ruminating on Ms. Thorne and her rooster was a waste of a shimmering Saturday morning.  And this was a special Saturday—the day of the community dog show.  Kat’s pure-bred beagle, Duke, was a beautiful tricolor and as smart as a whip.  Ms. Thorpe’s rescue dog, if you could call such a white woolly scruff a dog, was named Patch.  For the three years before Ms. Thorne had moved into the cul-de-sac, Duke had won the dog show.  But last year, Duke and Patch had tied for first place.

The competition had two events: a mandatory agility test which a dog had to complete successfully and a “free-style” in which the handler and the dog had one minute to demonstrate a unique trick.  Final score was the sum of the scores from both events.  Kat was certain that this year, Duke’s trick would convince the judges that Duke was the superior dog.

Kat smiled to herself, remembering the day she had stealthily followed Ms. Thorne and Patch to the park.  Using her binoculars to watch them practice had given her just the inside information she needed to devise a trick that would surely one-up Ms. Thorne.  Maybe the woman would learn some humility.

By noon, Kat and Duke were waiting their turn in the competitors’ tent which had been erected on the community’s soccer field.  Because Duke and Patch had jointly won last year’s show they would be competing last.  Duke was his normal relaxed self but Kat was anxious throughout the long wait.

Finally, Duke and Patch were up.  Duke rocketed through the obstacle course with ease and no faults, as did Patch.  Their scores were even.

Then Duke and Kat moved to the designated spot in front of the judges’ table.   Kat put down a bowl and a bottle of milk.  She commanded Duke to fill the bowl from the bottle without spilling a drop.  And Duke did.

Patch and Ms. Thorne came next.  Kat’s jaw dropped when Ms. Thorne also put down a bowl and a bottle of milk.  Ms. Thorne then ordered Patch to fill the bowl exactly two-thirds full.   Patch complied without spilling a drop.  Then Patch calmly trotted over to Duke’s bowl and carefully lapped up exactly one-third of the milk.  Mission accomplished, Patch sat down between both bowls, facing the judges’ table, grinning a wide, satisfied, doggy grin.





Candor Tasmanian Devil

(Flash fiction from SkyFireFox author  Alyce Campbell. Copyright © 2017 by Alyce Rita Campbell   All Rights Reserved.  Candor Tasmanian Devil is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual incidents or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

I can’t say I didn’t have doubts, after letting my betrothed, Lou, strong-arm me into buying the empty warehouse balanced on the edge of Candor Canyon.  And I mean that literally—he won the arm-wrestling match that decided what we would do with our severance pay from The Service.  At least I won the coin toss and got to name the place.  I chose to honor Nero, my first,  my only, and now my sadly long-dead, foster pet.

Lou guffawed.  “Emma, calling our speakeasy The Tasmanian Devil is just inviting trouble,  but I admit it suits you.  Those little critters are tetchy and can fly into a maniacal rage when facing a predator or fighting with a mate!”  He laughed again, giving me a hug.

I almost spat out a snarky retort but bit my tongue so as not to prove his point.  Instead I very gently replied, “Lou, that’s ‘when fighting FOR a mate’, and I have never been maniacal.  Besides, it’s catchy.”

So after a few months of exhausting grunt-work, we launched, and two buddies still in The Service, Milo and Elway, drove up at noon and started guzzling my homemade whiskey.  I set out dried blueberries mixed with  some candied mint as a snack.  At three, they enthusiastically clapped when Eva, our belly dancer, started swaying to Lou’s jazzy sax.   For an hour, they sat blissfully ogling her strategically placed flower-petal tattoos, visible under her sheer veils.

But then I served the fish and chips (fish from the farm in our pond out back, potatoes and lemons from the greenhouse).  Milo took one bite and glared at his plate through boozy bloodshot eyes.  He growled, “Emma, this belongs in the compost.”

I should have booted him out, as he was conspicuously drunk, the thin air amplifying his buzz.  But being ex-Service myself, I knew homesickness when I saw it.

“Milo, don’t give me flak.  I don’t have a long menu…costs being what they are…so it’s that or beansprout salad.”

Milo snarled, “Tasmanian Devil…even that scavenger wouldn’t eat this grub!”

He stood and snatched up the plate as if to throw it to the floor.

Now I could not abide waste.  Every edible ounce was a little victory in the unrelenting struggle to make our freehold profitable.  Whether we would succeed or leave with our tails between our legs was still to be determined.  I jumped up and grabbed his hand.  Lou jumped up and grabbed my hand.  We scuffled for a few seconds but, in the end, all that got spilled were the blueberries, which formed a purple mass by Milo’s glass of booze.

Milo’s pique had died, replaced by acute embarrassment.

“Emma…I’m…I’m sorry.”

Then he scooped up the berries, dumped them into his glass, and took a swallow.

I watched as surprised delight flooded his face.

“That’s damn good!”

He handed me the glass and I took a sip.  The mingling of blueberry, mint and rye reminded me of lazy summers in my native Raleigh but I was still able to smell the distinct aromas of grain grown on local soil.

The drink needed a little bite so I squeezed lemon juice into the glass and swirled.  I handed the glass to Lou.

“Damn good,” was all he said after he took his sip.

A knowing look passed between us.

I smiled: “So I think we do need to change the name of this speakeasy, but I still can honor Nero.  I christen this drink the Candor Tasmanian Devil.

And that’s the story of the first cocktail invented on the planet Mars.